Incentive drives up potato exports
Potato exports have increased 18 percent to 4,182 tonnes in April from a month ago, en`couraged by a hike in cash incentives by the government.
But the trend may not remain so for the rest of the current fiscal year because of the eroding quality of potatoes, said exporters.
The exports would have been higher if the government had raised the incentive earlier, as the bulk quantity of tuber is usually exported in February-April.
Bangladesh exported close to 9,000 tonnes of potato in the three months to April -- mainly to Malaysia and Singapore, said exporters and officials at the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). DAE's Plant Protection Wing issues plant health certificates before such shipments.
“It's encouraging and quite a big amount,” said Jasim Uddin, chairman of Bangladesh Cold Storage Association.
On April 8, the government hiked the cash incentive for potato exports to 20 percent from 10 percent for the April-June period to drive up exports after prices fell on the local market due a surplus production.
Primary estimates show the sector is likely to run a surplus of about 20 lakh tonnes of potato this year as the production has exceeded 80 lakh tonnes, an 18 percent rise from a year ago.
“We informed the government in January of the possibility of a bumper output and demanded more incentives. But the government did not respond quickly enough,” said Belayet Hossain, chief executive of Global Agro Resources Incorporation, a leading exporter.
"The best time is over."
“A small quantity of potatoes will still be exported,” said Belayet, who has shipped nearly 4,000 tonnes since February.
Uttam Deb, head of research of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said the hike in cash incentive has made a positive impact on exports.
But the exports failed to bump up potato prices on the domestic market, according to retail price data from Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
Belayet said: “More farmers would have got fair prices if the export volume had increased." He added that his company had purchased potatoes directly from farmers for Tk 12 a kg.